It’s only been open seven months but Dakota Deluxe in Leeds is already making a name for itself as a celebrity hotspot.
Singer Richard Ashcroft stayed at the hotel just before it officially opened in May when he played the arena and I imagine he’s not the only one.
Daktota’s other hotels in Scotland have been frequented by film stars Glenn Close, Christian Slater and Jonathan Pryce as well as the tennis player Andy Murray. Those in the public eye seem to enjoy the brand’s discreet, sophisticated, hidden away feel. The boutique 84-bedroom hotel in the heart of the Leeds’ business district between Russell Street and Greek Street is the fourth for the independently-owned Dakota Group, led by Ken McCulloch, who founded Malmaison Hotels.
The hotel boss gave his creative team, headed by his wife, the international award-winning interior designer Amanda Rosa, the remit of designing a hotel which oozes luxurious elegance.
The plush hotel interior is decked out in muted greys and soft browns with low level lighting and soft background music, encouraging visitors to unwind.
I visited the hotel’s basement Bar and Grill with a friend on a quiet Thursday evening in November.
Under the direction of head chef Ross Bootland, whose credentials include Hotel Du Vin, the Dakota Bar and Grill delivers brasserie-style service with a classic menu and particularly prides itself on its steaks.
We sat in one of the restaurant’s alcoves on comfortable brown leather seats, which was perfect for a relaxed catch-up.
I couldn’t help feeling the restaurant itself lacked atmosphere but perhaps that was because there were only three tables occupied.
During the week, the hotel tends to attract corporate parties and solo diners. At the weekend there is more of a mix of hotel guests with a lean towards couples on a romantic weekend away. I’m told that large group bookings are actively discouraged.
The staff were very attentive and promptly took our drinks order - half a bottle of 2015 Sartori di Verona Pinot Grigio Arcole, Veneto, Italy (£14), a drinkable mid-range option.
They then brought us a complementary Venetian dip, which had a tomato and basil base topped with mascarpone and goat’s cheese. The dip was delicious but my friend and I both agreed it could have been improved by warming the baguette slices which accompanied it.
To start, I chose fritto misto with aioli mayonnaise (£10) a selection of lightly battered pieces of fish, including salmon and trout, which tasted fresh and crisp.
My friend chose the crispy goat’s cheese with roasted beetroots, walnuts & watermelon (£8), which she enjoyed - the variety of flavours and textures a joy to the palette.
While I would have happily chosen most of the starters on the menu, I was slightly disappointed with the main course options. As a pescatarian (I eat fish but not meat), my choices were limited to grilled salmon or halibut, butternut squash risotto and fish and chips. None of these particularly excited me and all of them could have been on the menu of any average pub for half the price.
Having said this, the restaurant does what it says on the tin, simple dishes cooked well. It may not have been inspiring, but my choice of grilled salmon with buttered spinach and sauce choron (£16), was succulent and packed with flavour.
Given that the restaurant prides itself on its steaks, my meat-eating friend was keen to check what all the fuss was about. She went for the 280g rib eye steak (£30) with bearnaise sauce and we shared a bowl of broccoli hollandaise (£3.50).
As expected, the steak was delicious and perfectly cooked to her requirements - medium rare. We both enjoyed the broccoli hollandaise which had a delicious and rich creamy sauce.
Although we were pretty full by the end of the main course, we decided to share a caramel and chocolate slice (£8), which was divine - the right amount of chocolate and caramel without being sickly. We rounded off the meal with two refreshing mint teas.
The restaurant surroundings present a cosy atmosphere and the hotel deliberately discourages large groups of rowdy customers with most tables for two and four people. It was a nice and quiet place to catch up with a friend on a weekday evening and we were impressed by the friendly staff and slick service but the absence of other customers did make it feel devoid of character.
The food was perfectly cooked but the mains menu was a bit too “safe”. It lacked the finesse and imagination of other top-end restaurants in the city which charge similar prices and set the same high expectations.
The whole meal came to £109.45, including a 10 per cent service charge of £9.95.
Address: 8 Russell Street, Leeds LS1 5RN
Opening times: Monday-Saturday noon-10pm, Sunday 12.30pm-9pm
Telephone: 0113 322 6261